Startup Monday: Latest tech trends & news happening in the global startup ecosystem (Issue 46)


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Top startups news to follow this week:

1. Edtech giant Byju’s — which is leading the Indian startup ecosystem with the highest valuation — has received an offer from one of Churchill Capital’s special-purpose acquisition companies (SPAC) to go public in the USA, at a valuation of $48 billion.

SPAC, also known as blank check companies, is an entity that has no commercial operations and is formed strictly to raise capital through an IPO. A source aware of the development told Business Insider that Byju’s has four to six weeks to respond to the offer. The company may choose to go for a primary initial public offering (IPO) in the US and later have a secondary public issue in India as well.

SPAC, also known as blank check companies, is an entity that has no commercial operations and is formed strictly to raise capital through an IPO.

A source aware of the development told Business Insider that Byju’s has four to six weeks to respond to the offer. The company may choose to go for a primary initial public offering (IPO) in the US and later have a secondary public issue in India as well.

2. With manufacturing and supply chain inefficiencies plaguing gift shopping, car buying, and everyday life, this week Quality Assurance Startup Elementary Raises $30 Million Series B Led By Tiger Global. Traditionally, QA has been the job of a human inspector–the final job before a product is packaged–and the step that ensures the product functions as promised by marketing. With Elementary, an AI-enabled robot inspects every product, eliminating human error and inefficiencies. 

Now with over $47 million in funding, Arye Barnehama, Elementary’s 31-year-old cofounder and CEO are doubling his company’s workforce and hoping to expand the technology’s use cases to other parts of the factory. “Companies need to manufacture faster and keep products at a higher quality than ever before,” says Barnehama. “We find the quality is the fundamental data set to help them reach their goal.”

3. The “Future Unicorns in Fintech” report analyzes the top 50 Fintech startups that have the potential to become unicorns (valuation more than US$1bn) based on the Unicorn Prediction Model. The model is based on a proprietary machine learning (ML) algorithm which analyzes millions of data points related to venture capital (VC) investment activity for startups and can predict future unicorns. The report highlights potential unicorns in the Fintech market ecosystem and covers insights on VC investments, stage of startups, Fintech regional investment activity, job analytics, company filing trends, and patenting activity. A comprehensive view of innovative Fintech startups with cutting-edge expertise spanning across sectors is predicted to become tomorrow’s unicorns.

4. Uni, an Indian startup that offers users pay-later cards, has raised $70 million in a financing round as it looks to broaden its product offerings in the South Asian market.

General Catalyst led the one-year-old startup’s Series A funding. Eight Roads Ventures, Elevation Capital, Arbor Ventures as well as existing investors Lightspeed and Accel participated in the round.

The new round, which follows last year’s $18.5 million seed funding, values Uni at about $350 million, according to two people familiar with the matter. TechCrunch reported earlier that Uni was in talks to raise around at over $300 million valuations.

Bangalore-based Uni is among a handful of startups in India that is attempting to bring the benefits of credit cards to the masses. Even as nearly a billion Indians have a bank account, only a sliver of this population is covered by the country’s young credit rating system.

Fewer than 30 million Indians have a credit card today, which has created huge whitespace for startups like Uni and Tiger Global-backed Slice to innovate on tech and reach more consumers. Uni offers its customers a pay-later card that automatically splits the bill into three parts spread across three months. If customers pay within three months, they are not charged any interest fee. If they settle the bill in one month, they get a 1% cash-back reward.

5. 90% of bitcoin’s supply has been mined and 4 other crypto updates you should know. Though it briefly popped above $50,000 on Sunday, the price of bitcoin retreated at the start of the week. The largest cryptocurrency by market value is trading at around $47,358 as of Monday afternoon, according to Coin Metrics.

Other top cryptocurrencies are also down, including ether, the second-largest cryptocurrency. Ether is currently trading at around $3,813. Along with price movement, here are five important things that happened in the cryptocurrency space last week.

On Wednesday, crypto industry executives testified before the House Financial Services Committee.

Also on Wednesday, Kickstarter announced plans to create a decentralized version of its crowdfunding platform.

“We’re supporting the development of an open-source protocol that will essentially create a decentralized version of Kickstarter’s core functionality,” the company wrote in a blog post. “This will live on a public blockchain, and be available for collaborators, independent contributors, and even Kickstarter competitors, from all over the world to build upon, connect to, or use.”

Developers activated Arrow Glacier, an upgrade to the Ethereum network, on Thursday.

The upgrade pushed back the so-called “difficulty bomb,” which could potentially slow or freeze mining on Ethereum, back to June 2022. By that time, developers hope to have transitioned Ethereum from a proof-of-work model for mining to a proof-of-stake model.

The ConstitutionDAO announced in November that it would shut down after being outbid for a rare copy of the U.S. Constitution during a Sotheby’s auction. But the DAO’s token, called PEOPLE, continues to surge.

As of Monday morning, 90% of the total bitcoin supply of 21 million has been mined, according to data from Blockchain.com. 

6. Israeli cleantech company UBQ Materials, a maker of bio-based products converted from waste, nabbed a $170 million investment to further fund its expansion and build a large-scale conversation facility in the Netherlands next year, the company said Wednesday. The investment is one of the largest in the cleantech sector to date, and the biggest in the local environmental tech industry this year.

The startup was founded in 2012 by Yehuda Pearl and Jack Bigio, both with a background in business and entrepreneurship, who were inspired by the idea that organic materials could be broken into their natural components to be later transformed into usable material. Pearl is also the founder of the Sabra hummus brand.

UBQ has existing agreements to provide its thermoplastic materials to make automotive parts with carmakers including Daimler, to replace McDonald’s famous plastic trays in Latin America, and to make hangers and trash bins.

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7. Gen Z isn’t satisfied with the social media they grew up with, so they’re building the apps that they want to use. A “social branding” app for creative teens and twenty-somethings, Tagg is announcing a $2 million seed round last week from Twitter co-founder Biz Stone, Facebook’s former VP of International Growth Ed Baker, TripAdvisor founder Stephen Kaufer, Pillar VC and more.

Founded by recent alumni of Brown University and the neighboring Rhode Island School of Design, Tagg is still in private beta with thousands of users, and thousands more on a waitlist. It’s like a link-in-bio service, but with a social element that encourages young creatives to connect, collaborate and develop friendships.

“In the digital world, the more authentic your brand, the more genuine your connections. Current social platforms fall short as they were not built for this evolving intersection of branding and connecting,” the company explains. “Tagg is building and growing an environment allowing for full creative expression of oneself — no restrictions, no stigma.”

8. The healthcare artificial intelligence market is projected to grow at a CAGR of 39.97% to reach US$36.222 billion by 2026 from US$3.441 billion in 2019.

Artificial Intelligence essentially uses machine learning algorithms and deep learning to gather and process data and furnish it to the end-user. The foremost aim of using healthcare artificial intelligence is to scrutinize relationships between prevention techniques and patient results. It is thus used to analyze a chunk of data through Electronic Health Records to prevent disease.

A major reason for the growth of this market is the increase in the number of chronic diseases and fewer health care facilities available.

According to the World Economic Forum report, “One in three adults worldwide has multiple chronic conditions: cardiovascular disease alongside diabetes, depression as well as cancer, or a combination of three, four, or even five or six diseases at the same time. NCDs represent more than half the global burden of diseases.

9. ForwardX Robotics, a Beijing-headquartered company that makes autonomous mobile robots (AMR), said Tuesday it has closed the initial tranche of its Series C funding round as it looks to expand globally.

The startup is fundraising for the rest of its Series C round at a time investors are courting warehousing and manufacturing robot makers in China, the company’s chief operating officer Yaxin Guan told TechCrunch during an interview.

The new investment lifted ForwardX’s total raise to about $100 million since Nicolas Chee, a former vice president at Oracle, founded the company in 2016. The startup declined to disclose its post-money valuation or how much it plans to rake in for the entire Series C.

10. CVS Health is tapping into Microsoft’s technologies, including cloud computing and artificial intelligence, to accelerate its “digital-first” strategy.

The pharmacy retail company announced Thursday a new strategic alliance with the tech giant focused on developing innovative solutions to provide more personalized care to consumers. The tech collaboration also will provide CVS Health’s more than 300,000 employees with tools to better serve more than 100 million people, company executives said.

Microsoft’s capabilities and the Azure cloud computing service will provide CVS with a “technology-forward, digital-first” foundation as it works to ramp up its consumer-centric digital strategy, Roshan Navagamuwa, CVS’ chief information officer, told Fierce Healthcare.

“Business services at this scale require a new level of partnership. Our collaboration with Microsoft will accelerate this work and empower our employees to provide quality care that is more personal and affordable.”  

As part of the collaboration, CVS will migrate 1,500 new and existing business applications onto Azure. The pharmacy giant also aims to leverage Microsoft’s tech muscle to provide customized care experiences by combining information across different areas of the company to deliver personalized health recommendations when and where consumers need them, company executives said.

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